Naming the Accuser in A Rape Case

Today's Christian Science Monitor has an article When the only unknown is victim's name , examining the issue of whether its's time to end the policy of shielding the accuser's name in a rape accusation:

...beyond the media circus - or the question of what actually happened at the Cordillera Lodge and Spa - loom the larger ethical issues involved in sexual-assault cases, particularly ones with such high-profile defendants: What privacy is owed to victims? Is it fair to name the accused but not the accusers? Are personal details off limits? Has the Internet made this type of privacy a relic of the past?

Our view is that either both the names of the accused and the accuser should be kept private until trial, or, that both names should be public.

The Bryant case, however, has revived those questions. [Radio Host] Mr. Leykis justified naming Bryant's accuser by saying that, if rape is about violence and not sex, the victim shouldn't have stigma or shame. Others have wondered whether withholding victims' names actually contributes to rape's stigma, cultivating a silent shame. Many have also raised the issue of fairness to the accused: False charges of rape can, after all, ruin a life.

Only one paper in the country print names of sex assault accusers:

The editor and publisher of the Shelton-Mason County Journal, in Shelton, Wash., may run the only paper in the country that always prints rape victims' names - no matter their ages.....He stands by it both as a matter of journalistic consistency and for helping erode the stigma of rape.

Others - including a few feminists - agree with him. After the Central Park jogger case, Karen DeCrow, a former president of the National Organization of Women, wrote in USA Today: "Pull off the veil of shame. Print the name."

A tougher question is whether concerns about victims' privacy have gotten so extreme as to compromise defendants' rights. After all, being accused of rape brings stigma too - a fact not lost on Bryant's supporters. Mr. Gay often asks critics to imagine it's their father or brother or son on trial. That's the strongest argument for naming victims, says Ms. McBride of the Poynter Institute.

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